Matthew Birt writes:
I enjoyed reading and made good use of everyone else’s information, so I thought I ought to contribute:
Travelled solo, independently using local transport
Bradt Guidebook excellent
Generally felt very safe and welcome
Quite a lot of hassle from kids, beggars, tourist touts, blokes in the street – quite consistent, but not that persistant and certainly not threatening in any way. Groups of kids are a right royal pain in the ____ .
Transport pretty good. People always really helpful – and I always got to where I was heading, even if I’m not sure how. Roads generally good and traffic free – all the driver has to worry about are the people standing in the middle of it and the aimlessly wandering livestock
Cheap tuk-tuks just about everywhere – seem to have replaced garis in most places
Mobile phone coverage generally good – cheap and quick to get sim (need photocopy of passport and photo)
Everything seemed very inexpensive – accomm, transport, food, etc
Easy to change cash in banks/airport
ATMs in a lot of places – Dashen and Commercial Bank worked for me
Forgotten how noisy Africa is, especially at night – or at least it was where I slept. Every night. My top tip – take the finest ear plugs money can buy. As well as eye drops (for the dust) and lip balm (for the sun).
Budget hotels – apart from in Harar – always provided towel, toilet paper and soap.
Weather – always sunny and hot during day – 25-30 C. No rain. In some towns, pretty cold early morning and night and required two fleeces (e.g. Debark, Debre Birhan, Abese Teferi)
Arrived 2am, and stayed in there until morning flight to Axum. Felt safe, although pretty cold. Nowhere nice to sleep, try and get into domestic terminal departures asap where there are comfortable loungers.
Hotel reps waiting at airport with free transport
Africa House – fine – 175B en suite single
Thought Tsion Maryam complex at 200B a rip-off, considering much of it closed and under refurbishment
Really enjoyed walk out to Debre Liqanos Monastry
Africa Hotel – fine – 150B – adjacent restaurant good but noisy at night
Nice just to be in a normal town, without the tourist ‘nonsense’
Good to walk out of town into countryside to see ‘real’ Ethiopia
Bus from Shire didn’t leave until after 7, even though told to be there at 5. Awful road. Wonderful Simien scenery for 10 hours or so!
Simien Park Hotel – good – 250B en suite single
Unique Landscape next door also looked good, but slightly more expensive.
If not trekking, negotiate hard and get a number of quotes for your day trip into the national park – tourist touts, argh!!!
Queen Taitu Pension – 200B en suite single. Poor. No hot water, etc. Noisy.
Moved to Belegez Pension, 200B, water still a problem, but quieter and nicer courtyard
Four Sisters Restaurant – great food and fantastic dancing. Before I left I didn’t think some contrived dance show for tourists would be a highlight of my trip. But it was. Go and see for yourself.
As solo, negotiated guide fee down to 100B (rather than 200) for castle complex
Kosoye also a highlight. Easy to get to (30-40 mins north of Gondar). Had a very nice breakfast at Befikir Ecolodge, which is visible from main road. Staff super friendly. Then great walk down into valley. Scout cost 100B, and worth every penny. Tough going. Highly recommended.
Wudie Pension – nice big room – 200B.
Ghion looked really run down to me, although good spot for meeting fellow tourists.
Tread carefully with the tourist touts in town. Both half day trips to the lake monastries and waterfall were shambolic and a rip-off. Average price paid seemed to be 200B/person, but I’m sure you can get for less. Get itinerary and any additional costs written down. You have been warned! Good for meeting other (equally hacked-off) tourists though!
Lucky with Blue Nile Falls – water was flowing – and another highlight.
There for Christmas, so very busy and accomm prices x2 or x3 normal rate
Hotel Lalibela, been refurbished and now rather swish. $45/double en suite
Private Roha – very basic, but felt safe – 400B/twin shared facilities
Recommend Unique Restarant opposite Asheton – cheap and good fun
Walk up to Asheton Maryam good, although hard
Used local guide – Zewudu Melak – +251 (0) 913636414 – for churches – nice guy – only ‘guide’ I used that I can recommend
Logo Hayk Lodge (I think, maybe name changed, not sure)
This place could probably be very peaceful and relaxing, but not on Christmas Day with a huge party going on!
230B/hut ensuite for okayish room (150B if you’re Ethiopian!)
Akalu Hotel – reasonable place – 100B for ensuite
Really nice restaurant at Eva Hotel
Alaf Hotel – bit noisy and water issues – 170B en suite. Great view of lake
Buffet D’Auoache – 150B/room – pretty nice and peaceful place. Dusty, nondescript town though
Managed to find a ‘guide’ to get me into Awash National Park by asking around at hotels. Hired a good minibus and driver for 1000B for the day (6am-6pm). Really enjoyed the reserve, it’s not the Serengeti, but saw quite a lot of game. Waterfalls fab. Awash Falls Lodge looked nice and was a good spot for lunch
Kebsch Int Lodge – decent room – 150B en suite; good restaurant attached
Got 6am bus direct to Kuni, found ‘guide’ quickly albeit using sign language and pointing to pictures in my Bradt Guide and visited Kuni Muktar Mountain Nyala Sanctuary. Not sure about ‘30-45 mins walk to river’. I got taken 2 hours up a bloody mountain, then 2 hours back down it. Not my ideal start to the day at 7 am. Fantastic though. Saw plenty of (skittish) nyala, warthogs, reedbuck and hyena.
Everyone I met moaned about the hotels in this place – except for those in the cultural guesthouses. The only town where I found that hotels were full
Trawfik Sharif Hotel – bit grim – bucket shower – 150B
Tewodros – 160B ensuite – okayish – despite stinking communal bathrooms at entrance
Belayneh – only offering doubles for 300B and water issues
Heritage Plaza looked more run down and mismanaged than guidebook suggests
Harar Ras – looked best bet – been refurbished – cheapest room 230B – good restaurant serving absolutely wonderful pizzas
Fresh Touch Restaurant – good, but expensive (for Ethiopia)
Hyena feeding cost me 100B – the greatest concentration of tourists I saw in one place throughout my 4 weeks in the country
Almaz Pension – 200B shared bathroom – clean, friendly, quiet, safe
Yod Abyssinia – good fun, if expensive – don’t go alone, sit at the front and be of above average height, otherwise you are liable to get dragged up on stage to dance – much to the amusement of the local crowd. This can lead to embarrassing flashbacks.
Have a good trip.